The promise — and potential — of blockchain to drive social impact is massive. Proponents contend blockchain will touch, if not disrupt, every major industry and will even alter the way that people and societies interact. Technology that increases efficiency, reduces costs, and promotes transparency can have significant implications for sectors that are dedicated to driving social impact. The potential to transform systems and leapfrog infrastructure can enable solutions that previously weren’t thought to be possible.
As agricultural supply chains are structured today, compliance data (such as data on safety, sustainability, and certificate status of food products) is stored on paper or in a proprietary database, which is audited periodically by trusted third parties.
This structure results in costly operational management and high potential for fraud, corruption, or error (both human and technology-based). Blockchain replaces the trusted-yet-fallible third parties involved in collecting, tracking, and managing data within agricultural supply chains with more neutral and efficient systems.
The investment and innovation in Democracy and Governance applications of blockchain technology speaks to its great potential value to the public sector and citizens. Governments and citizens around the world are implementing a diversity of pilot projects.
Distributed ledger technology can address many security and even logistical practices of government data exchange. Citizens’ data is harder to incorrectly or illegally erase or edit when it’s stored across blockchain-like networks, and these networks can prevent multiple agencies from having to repeatedly request an individual’s information.
The World Bank estimates that over 1.5 billion people on the planet are unable to prove their identity. Many of these people come from remote, underserved regions. Using blockchain technology to build and deploy digital identity solutions, if applied correctly, holds promise because it can reduce fraud, increase transparency, and increase efficiency.
Blockchain technology has several key advantages over current solutions to delivering a digital identity. They include increased efficiency, reduction in cost, and increase in transparency and fraud reduction. Blockchain data is immutable, making it close to impossible to fraudulently change past data.
The energy, climate, and environment sector, given its characteristic of millions of transactions to trade and distribute energy, has the potential to be transormed by blockchain technology.
Blockchain can improve the efficiency of existing grids through a decentralized platform with more data control and micro-optimizations of energy at the facilities level. It can also facilitate peer-to-peer transmission and support the creation of micro-grids. Blockchain technology has several important applications in this market. It can improve the efficiency of existing grids, both for utilities and final consumers.
With over two billion unbanked people around the world, opportunities for financial inclusion are tremendous. Some of the most pressing issues involved in offering access to the unbanked are solvable with the use of blockchain, including lowering transaction settlement time and costs, removing formal infrastructure requirements, and providing digital identity and property rights.
Blockchain has been used for cross-border payments to overcome obstacles associated with traditional banking/financial systems. Real-time processing helps reduce settlement risks and foreign exchange risk.
Applications for blockchain in Health include digital health records exchange and pharmaceutical supply chain management. In many of these areas, blockchain offers a more secure, decentralized, and efficient solution than would otherwise be possible.
The potential impact of a decentralized, patient-centric health records system is substantial. Healthcare providers with a full view of patients’ medical history can provide more personalized treatment and avoid duplicating services.
In countries working to clarify or increase titled land area, storing and certifying information via a blockchain can provide greater legal and economic security for inhabitants and landholders.
Blockchain’s promises of transparency, improved efficiency, and decreased fraud could make a huge difference in countries with poor recordkeeping or frequent instances of land fraud. Blockchain-based land registries attempt to address two critical pieces of information infrastructure needed for land governance: (1) storage and verification of titles and ownership, and (2) more efficient processes and transactions.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the UN to address fundamental issues such as poverty, basic human rights, and access to education requires large amounts of capital and innovative approaches to increase effectiveness. Despite significant investments by development organizations, governments, and the private sector, an estimated $2.5 trillion of additional capital is needed.
Blockchain offers a promising solution to help increase funding levels and effectiveness by addressing some of the key issues in philanthropy and aid such as transparency, costs and inefficiency, and new vehicles for capital. Blockchain has the potential to transform charitable giving and aid distribution by enhancing transparency, reducing costs through disintermediation, and enabling new mechanisms for monitoring and tracking impact.